MyDD Exclusive: Barack Obama on the Social Security "Crisis"
by Jonathan Singer, Thu Nov 15, 2007 at 05:41:09 AM EST
Yesterday afternoon following Barack Obama's speech and dialogue at Google I had the opportunity to speak with him for a moment about what he has had to say recently about Social Security. As you might remember, I took great umbrage last week over his use of the word "crisis" with regard to the program's outlook.
My iPod apparently didn't record my question, so I'll paraphrase it to give you an idea of what Obama is responding to in his answer below (which you can listen to through the provided player, download as an .mp3, or read in the provided rush transcript). I asked Obama why he would use the word "crisis", particularly given the fact that the Social Security trust fund will not run out until 2042 or 2052 (depending on who is doing the analysis), and that even then the program will provide greater benefits than it does today, even accounting for inflation.
Barack Obama: I think the point your making is why talk about it right now. Is that right?
Jonathan Singer: Yeah. And why use the term "crisis"?
Obama: It is a long-term problem. I know that people, including you, are very sensitive to the concern that we repeat anything that sounds like George Bush. But I have been very clear in fighting privatization. I have been adamant about the fact that I am opposed to it. What I believe is that it is a long-term problem that we should deal with now. And the sooner the deal with it then the better off it's going to be.
So the notion that somehow because George Bush was trying to drum up fear in order to execute [his] agenda means that Democrats shouldn't talk about it at all I think is a mistake. This is part of what I meant when I said we're constantly reacting to the other side instead of setting our own terms for the debate, but also making sure we are honest and straight forward about the issues that we're concerned about.
[THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.]
Obama stopped short of renunciating the term "crisis." However he did instead speak of "a long-term problem" facing Social Security, which I have less of a problem with (at least the term itself rather than its use to connote an urgency to act NOW, an urgency that is in fact lacking). What's more, he also made clear his "adamant" opposition to privatizing Social Security, which again certainly isn't bad.
In all it's not everything that I wanted to hear. But perhaps more importantly, Obama had the opportunity to hear that folks don't want him talking about a non-existent "crisis" in Social Security. And hopefully, he will pay heed to that sentiment.